Friday, May 27, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Ex-Trojan gets reins of ladies’ basketball

Leader sports editor

While one Jacksonville program got some long awaited leadership and stability, another continues in flux.

The Jacksonville Lady Titan basketball team finally has a head coach, and she comes with a successful pedigree as a player. Marian Kursh will take over her first program after working as a graduate assistant at Arkansas Tech, and an assistant coach at eStem Charter and Ramsay Junior High, a feeder school to Fort Smith Southside.

Kursh is the third candidate to verbally accept the position, but unlike the first two, confirms she is in it to stay.

“It’s a done deal,” said Kursh on Thursday. “I’m extremely excited. I feel like this is a great opportunity with Jacksonville becoming its own district. I’ve had the opportunity to play and learn from such an incredible coach in Joe Foley, and I believe I’m ready to make my own impact in coaching like I did as a player.”

Kursh won a state championship in high school at Fort Smith Northside before signing with UALR in 2008. There she was on four-straight conference championship teams under Foley.

After graduation, she worked as a GA at ATU before returning to Little Rock, where she worked at eStem while finishing her master’s degree.

Kursh still lives in Fort Smith and will begin the relocation process soon. She plans to meet with returning players in early June.

Kursh’s assistant is also brand new to Jacksonville, but not the area. Asiah Scribner was a star player at Lonoke High School before becoming teammates with Kursh at UALR.

She played for all three of Nathan Morris’ state runner-up teams from 2007-’09, and will be a tremendous asset to Jacksonville, according to Morris, who is still acting AD at Lonoke but has accepted the superintendent position at Two Rivers, and will start that position in June.

“Jacksonville got a jewel in Asiah Scribner,” said Morris. “I’ll tell you this, I’d give her anything I could find for her if I could. She’s that kind of person. She’s smart. She knows the game and she’s a hard worker. In fact, I talked to her (Thursday) night, and I told her I have a new dream job. In 10, 12, 15 years, whenever this new era I’m coming up on runs its course, I want to be her assistant. She’s going to make a fine coach one day.”

Jacksonville athletic director Jerry Wilson said the experience of learning from Foley was a big key in the decision to hire Kursh, as well as Scribner.

“Coming out of that program, you know they have the discipline it takes,” said Wilson. “We’re trying to build a basketball program here with consistent success. It’s going to take some time, but I think (Kursh) has the background to do it. UALR was nothing when Foley took over that program, and that’s who she learned from.”

While girls’ basketball is set, the football staff suffered a huge setback on Thursday when it found out that offensive coordinator Jim Stanley had accepted the head ninth grade position at Sylvan Hills. Stanley had been prominent this offseason installing the double-wing offense his teams ran when he was head coach at Gosnell and Vilonia.

His position was in jeopardy once the interview and hiring process officially began under the new district’s administration. There weren’t enough P.E. positions available at the high school and middle school for the number of coaches with that certification. Head coach Barry Hickingbotham researched the situation and found out Stanley could be grandfathered into an elementary P.E. certification, which was still available at Bayou Meto. Hickingbotham and Stanley went to the Department of Education to have it added to his teaching certificate last week, but more roadblocks awaited. Coaches believed Stanley would be officially hired at the most recent school board meeting, but he wasn’t on the agenda.

The head coach says he had Stanley on the agenda for the next meeting, but found out Thursday he had accepted the position at SHHS on Tuesday.

“It’s nothing negative,” said Stanley about his departure. “There were financial considerations, and family considerations – nothing negative about it at all.”

The loss of the offensive coordinator follows the loss a few weeks ago of the defensive coordinator, who was also not retained, officially, because there was no teaching spot available for his certification.

Stanley says uncertainty about the Jacksonville position played no part in his decision to leave.

That leaves only head coach Hickingbotham and defensive backs coach Larry Burrows officially on staff as the program embarks upon its first year as its own district and first year of 6A competition after being at 5A the last four seasons.

One other assistant coach has been hired but has not yet reported. Brian Eagle, a Cabot High School and Arkansas Tech graduate, will be coming from Warren as a football, and likely baseball, assistant. There are still three football positions officially open, though Wilson and Hickingbotham both say there are strong candidates for two of them.